Ah, the sweet stuff. Whether you get your daily dose of sweets from your morning bowl of Froot Loops to your late night cookie deliveries, everyone has some sort of weakness to this highly addictive substance. However, if we were to start finger-pointing at what the culprit is to America's expanding waistlines (cough, cough Freshman Fifteen), it would be sugar.

Historical Change

It is common knowledge that the majority of the United States population is not in the best physical shape, with close to 70% of the nation being overweight and 1/3 being obese. There have been scientific comparisons about the consumption of sugar from the 1800s to the current millennium, and the results show that in the 1800s Americans consumed roughly 45 grams of sugar in five days. (That's roughly the amount of sugar in a coke can.)

Now, however, we consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. That's 756 grams in 5 days, making it up to 130 pounds of sugar consumed in a year. As the country has grown (literally), sugar continues to play a prominent role in our food culture and not just in "sugary" foods — it has been put into almost everything that we consume.


sweet, milk, dairy product
Katie Walsh

There are different types of sugar, with the two basic categories being simple and complex. The rule generally is that simple sugars are natural, and complex sugars are manufactured, but this is not always the case.

A cheat sheet for the naturally occurring sugars are as follows:

Glucose: Naturally found in fruits and vegetables; this is what our bodies use for energy and convert into glycogen. Our bodies can actually produce this!

Fructose: Naturally occurring in fruit (duh), it is also found in sugar cane and honey. If too much fructose enters your liver, whatever cannot be processed will be converted into fat.

Sucrose: This is a naturally occurring complex sugar, found in the stems of sugar cane and sugar beets usually alongside of glucose. Too much of this can raise blood sugar. Examples are granulated sugar and brown sugar.

Lactose: Found in dairy products, this complex sugar is a result of enzymes trying to break down the lactose molecule. As we grow, though, we often lose this enzyme, hence why many grow to become lactose intolerant. 

What happens once we eat sugar?

So, we have this sugar in our body and blood stream. What happens next? When your pancreas detects a rush of sugar, it releases a hormone called insulin to deal with all of that excess sugar. Insulin helps regulate that level of sugar in our blood; the more sugar in the blood stream, the more insulin is released.

I could go on about sugar for hours. It has a huge impact on our bodies! The most important thing, though, is to know your body. The more you educate yourself on what you're putting in your body, the more control you have over how your body will feel.